While in Toronto (Canada’s largest city), I visited the Ontario Science Centre and discovered an exhibit on Stanley Milgram (1933-84), a psychologist best known for a controversial 1960s human behavior study.
The science centre exhibit was all about Milgram’s study and I couldn’t leave until reading all the information panels and watching the video.
In his experiment, participants were instructed to “teach” students in an adjacent room who were supposedly hooked up to electric shock machines. Students were asked questions and every time they answered incorrectly, the participants were told to administer a corrective shock.
In reality, no one was given a shock, but pre-recorded sounds were played that made it sound like the students were reacting in pain to the shocks. And those sounds (screams, pounding on the wall) grew in volume and intensity as each incorrect answer was given and the resulting voltage level of the “shock” was increased.
How did participants react? If they asked to stop the experiment, they were requested (at first), then told they had to continue. If they still said no, the experiment ended, but if they continued, the experiment often didn’t stop until the student was given the maximum 450-volt “shock” three times.
What’s amazing is most participants continued when assured they would not be held responsible. In fact, in each version of the experiment, between 61 and 66 per cent of the participants went all the way to administering what they believed were life-threatening shocks.
How would I react in this situation? Would I trust in the authority figure and potentially kill someone, especially if I believed I wouldn’t be held responsible?
History is rife with evil people claiming what they did wasn’t their fault. Some of the most infamous Nazis used this “I was just following orders” defence when they were put on trial. Would I do the same thing? Or, as a serious Christian, would I realize that I had no business handing over authority to people who are as hugely imperfect as I am?
In the end, I believe you and I can confidently give the power of authority over our lives to the same person that Jesus Christ gave authority to: God.
In the Bible, Jesus prayed to God just hours before he was taken into custody on false charges, sentenced to death, then hung on a Roman cross between two criminals. Knowing what was about to transpire, he prayed “Father, if you are willing, take away this cup of suffering. But do what you want, not what I want.”
The result of Jesus giving authority to his creator – the same creator responsible for you and me – was not just death. It was resurrection. It was the gift of forgiveness of all sins offered to every single person on this planet. And whether you accept it or not, what Jesus did changed the world forever.
So, whatever’s going on in my life, I’m going to follow Jesus and give ultimate authority to the only person who is absolutely, completely trustworthy. How about you? Post your answer below and let’s have a conversation.